“Libraries allow children to ask questions about the world and find the answers. And the wonderful thing is that once a child learns to use a library, the doors to learning are always open.” — Laura Bush
It’s National Library Week, and it’s time to sing the praises of our librarians. Meet Emily Harkins, library assistant at Waunakee Public Library. Sing it out, Emily!
When I say library, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind?
Books! It’s not original, but it is honest, and I love me some books!
What’s the story behind your choice to become a librarian?
After 12 years in book retail, I was ready for a change, but wanted to stick with books if I could. I saw the job opening at Waunakee Public Library and went for it. It’s been a great transition, and I’m still surprised by how my years at Borders help me with my current job.
Librarians are very busy people; can you tell us some of the jobs a librarian does that people don’t know about?
Grant writing is something that may not automatically come to mind for people; all the steps we take to make the holds process run smoothly would probably surprise people too.
Do you have one job that is your favorite?
I love making book recommendations to patrons of all ages–I haven’t gotten into the habit of calling it “reader’s advisory” yet, but I guess that’s what I’m doing.
Connecting with young children must be easier than middle grade or older kids. What are some of the programs you offer to get kids—especially older ones—to continue to come back to the library?
We have book clubs for middle grades and for the young adults. The younger one is more activity oriented, and so far, we’ve had a great time with the kids–our Percy Jackson party was very popular. The older kids get to have a snack, discuss books and usually have a chance to win free books in a drawing during their meetings. There’s a Teen Advisory Board called PKF (Putting Kids First) that gets together to plan activities for teens in the library. We have lots of guest speakers, game days, and contests to attract these ages.
There is such a wide variety of wonderful books available. How do you choose which ones to put in the library?
Well, we consider our community, listen to our patrons and keep tabs on what titles have high holds for our branch. Patrons are pretty comfortable mentioning things we ought to carry, and we pay attention to that.
What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you or someone has said to you?
I have lots of funny stories, but the one that springs to mind is the exclamation from a little girl when I showed her that we had a Fancy Nancy story box. As I took it down from the shelf, she said, with high-pitched enthusiasm, “Oh. My. Garsh!”
What is the most touching thing that has happened to you or someone has said to you?
A patron wrote the library after I had recommended several books for her daughter and said what a difference I had made in her daughter’s enthusiasm for reading. I didn’t realize I was doing anything so important at the time, but it warmed my heart to know how much it meant to her.
What’s your favorite picture book? YA Novel?
Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen and One, by Kathryn Otoshi are current favorites of mine for picture books. For YA, I loved the Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare, Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead, and Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. (I can never name one book when people ask me a favorite.)
Can you give some good advice for raising life-long readers?
Don’t limit your kids on what they can read, based on your own preferences or preconceptions. Not letting your kids read something because you find it frivolous, or because you don’t think it matches their gender, for example, seems like a surefire way to discourage them from making their own choices, with the possible result that they’ll lose interest completely. I’m not saying parents shouldn’t watch out for their kids’ welfare, but it’s possible for parents to be too involved in what their kids pick out to read.
If you had three wishes, what would you wish for in your library?
1-More space for materials
2-More work space for the librarians
3-More space for our book sale
If you wrote an advertisement for libraries, what would it say?
Come on in–we’ve got free stuff in here!
Is there anything you would like to add?
Just like in my years with Borders, I’ve met the most wonderful people through my library job, both coworkers and library patrons. It just goes to show you–book people are the best people!
Thank you, Emily Harkins!
Waunakee Public Library